In the beginning...

April 4, 2013

Testing, testing, 1..2..3. Hello, everyone! My name is Leah Edwards and I'm currently performing Sharon Graham in a production of Master Class down at Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, Florida. I have been a lifelong artist-first a gymnast and dancer, then a classical pianist, then an opera singer and am now finding my way in the world of Broadway theatre. As I make these transitions, I don't mind telling you, it's always a little murky making my way out of one career and into the next. I often find myself with two resumes, two headshots, always trying to be what I think those knowledgeable in my new field "want" me to be and trying not to forget all the skills I'm confident I've learned from my previous one. Honestly, it's exhausting feeling so schizophrenic! But one thing I have always been certain of is that I love to learn. So I've altered my outlook and now use every experience-opera, play, recording-as a new, exciting expedition on which I can discover worlds of information I never knew I was missing.

My most recent bewilderment: microphones. Using microphones is, in itself, a complicated business. To begin with, it's an extra bit to deal with before you even get on the stage. Makeup, hair, costume, body mic. No wait! Wrong order! I can't tell you how many times I've had to dress and undress and dress again because I forgot to put on my mic or had it in my hair but outside my costume. Which also brings me to putting it in my hair. Ack! Talk about a situation where practice makes perfect. If I am wigged, a microphone is a delight to put on. I just place it daintily on top of my wig cap and I'm good to go. Getting it in my natural hair without it looking like a total rat's nest? Well, that's a whole other story. I'll be sure to keep you updated as I learn...

As someone who trained in opera, spending thousands of dollars in tuition learning how to project and use my body to help create a sound that carries over full symphonic scoring, microphones are an enigma. In Terrence McNally’s play, Maria Callas states, "I don't believe in microphones. Singing is first of all about projection. So is speech." She, of course, reigned supreme in the world of opera, where there is very little, if any, speech involved in performance. When there is the occasional spoken dialogue, it is produced as though singing, and often matches the heightened melodramatic expression of the art form. But early European opera houses were built to acoustical perfection and for much smaller audiences. To achieve that intimacy in today's Broadway theatres, the use of microphones is essential in order to captivate the audience during both sung and spoken passages. 

As far as singing with a microphone goes, it is as different a skill as jazz piano is to classical. There seem to be two schools of thought regarding microphone usage: 1) Microphones allow an artist to make more nuanced decisions, a director the freedom to make use of all parts of a set, whether upstage, downstage or offstage, and instrumentalists a creative use of space, as opposed to simply being beholden to a pit or 2) Microphones are the devil.

Regardless of your position, the point is, that just like being the best version of you no matter what your artistic outlet, so should you perform in the most proper and honest way, microphone or not. Whether you think that performing with a microphone hinders artistic expression or enhances it, learning a new skill always makes for a better performer in the long run. We are all a connected family of creators and even if we don't venture to perform in each other's theatres, we should appreciate that we've worked hard to hone our crafts and simply let our differences enrich us.

© Leah Edwards 2017